Not long ago, my dad deposited four Kodak slide carousels at my house, clearly in a mood. He said he had no idea what would be on these carousels, but have at it if I wanted to make digital copies to share with the family.
Up top is my own carousel of some of the images from the piles of slides. You click the arrows, in a 21st-century version of a Kodak Carousel.
I thought about the famous scene from Mad Men, when Don Draper pitches the executives from Kodak on an ad campaign for a new product, a slide projector with a wheel on top.
I recognize a few of the places, based on what I know of the chronology of my parents’ life. It’s the mid 1950s, and Kodachrome was for real. There’s a trip to San Francisco, to Puerto Rico. Nashville for medical school. Killeen, Texas for the Army. New York for his residency. I can tell that my mother took some of these—only she would take a photograph of a building.
As I look at these images, I think about how analog they are—how you kept a photo even if it wasn’t great because you had used a piece of film to take it. It was rare. And I think about how the labels scrawled on some of these are now separated from the images. It all becomes a blur, and the sensation of nostalgia is potent, just as Don Draper says in his pitch:
In Greek nostalgia literally means “the pain from an old wound.”
It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone.
This device isn’t a space ship. It’s a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. Takes us to a place where we ache to go again.
It’s not called “The Wheel.” It’s called “The Carousel.”
It lets us travel the way a child travels. Around and around and back home again to a place where we know we are loved.
PS And yes, amid the 1950s Easter photos, there I am at my prom in 1981—a photo that my dad (and my sister, no doubt) put in the slide show at Jon’s and my rehearsal dinner in 1990 to tease me. Now that’s a special kind of pain from an old wound!